The Necessary Evil

November 11th, 2011

Over on our facebook page, Sean asked “Out of curiosity, where does the money to live come from? Even living inexpensively would seem to cost money, food, gas, repairs, etc..” I started to reply there, but it got way too long.

Hi Sean,

First, I have to ask: Do you work for the IRS?

Well, the money comes from a variety of places. We work camp on occasion. That usually gives us a few grand a year. Work camping, if you don’t know, is were your employer supplies your campsite and utilities in addition to paying you your regular wages. We also have a couple of websites, like FreeCampsites.net, that generate ad revenue. Lastly, there are our savings. In our previous lives, while we had good careers and well paying jobs, we didn’t live lavishly. We were two renter DINKs. That left us with a decent cushion for this adventure.

Johnny Hiking Bryce Canyon, Utah

We save money on hair cuts, too!

Most of all, we live on the cheap! We don’t EVER pay for camping. On average, we have traveled about 12,000 miles a year. This year we have only driven around 6,000 miles. We cook all of our meals even down to making our own bread and yogurt. We try to average about $1000 in expenses a month. That’s everything, including auto and health insurance.

We try to do all of our own repairs. When the bottom of our camper fell off, it could have cost us several thousand to have an RV shop repair it. Instead, Johnny did it for less than $200. When our wheel bearings went out, we replaced them as well as the ball joints. However, we aren’t as brave as our friends over at Raven’s Roads. Unlike them, we didn’t rebuild our transmission while on the road, we bought a new one when ours gave up the ghost. We’re not that cool!

We could easily work camp year round, like our friends The Gypsies Townsend who never touch the blessed nest egg, and have plenty of left over cash, but we aren’t going that route. At the moment, we are enjoying lots of free time and working on web development in hopes of creating a sustainable lifestyle. Which, in all honesty, it isn’t at this moment. It’s getting there, though.

Even though I have a web log, I am a private person when it comes to money, sorry if my answer is a bit vague.

Rolling On

November 22nd, 2010

We’re still alive and in Kentucky. I am working and feel completely wiped at the end of the day. I will try to post an update soon.

Johnny and Rain @ GSP

Best Summer Job Ever!

April 29th, 2010

Hall of White Giants

After a lackluster winter at Amazon’s Fernley facility, Jenn and I decided we’d be better off looking for a job we enjoyed than one that promised big bucks and may or may not deliver. As one of our interests is caving, we decided to try and get jobs at a cave for the summer, even if it meant working the gift shop and cleaning restrooms. It turns out that we lucked into one of the most amazing jobs we could hope for.

Our first choice of positions came through and we got workcamping positions at Caverns of Sonora. For those of you that have never heard of it, Caverns of Sonora is one of the most decorated caves on the planet. While there hasn’t been a study that I’m aware of, I believe it could very well be the most decorated cave in the world based on formations per square inch. We are lucky enough to be spending a fair portion of every day guiding tours in this cave.

The tour is a very up close and personal experience. We are literally inches away from formations throughout much of the tour. On top of that, we are working for some of the best people you could hope to be around. The cave is owned by a family that has owned the land surrounding it for five generations and the general manager has been a true caver for forty-six years. I can’t imagine a better work experience.

100_3941

Words cannot begin to describe this beautiful cave. But to give you a general idea, we spent a week training with two to three tours a day that are close to two hours long and on our first day off, we took two tours through the cave just to enjoy it and take photos. I snapped five hundred and forty some odd pictures in three and a half hours. Almost eighty have been uploaded to the gallery. The pictures do not do the experience justice, but they are far better than words could ever be. I only wish I had half the photographic skill of the professionals who have done the off-trail photos.

The pictures for this post are chosen more or less at random as I would be very hard pressed to pick favorites from the photos we’ve taken so far. At twenty bucks a person, the tour pushes the limits of our budget, but it really makes me stop and think what beautiful things we may have missed over the past two years by being thrifty. I hope none of them were nearly as beautiful as this, but I will definitely think twice the next time we pass a ‘tourist trap’ by because we don’t want to throw our money away. Some of those traps are probably every bit as worthwhile as this one. Please take a look at the gallery. I’ve yet to see someone come out of a tour disappointed; in fact, the most frequent comment is ‘this is the prettiest cave I’ve ever seen.’

Coding on the road

January 19th, 2010

After two years, I’ve finally started finding the joy of programming again. While in Fernley, NV, I wrote a quick patch to add a new playstyle to the crawl roguelike. Several days ago, I found and patched a bug in bcrypt, which I wrote nearly eight years ago and have ignored ever since. Best of all, I’ve started writing my own video game. It’s a roguelike, so don’t expect fancy graphics and a constant adrenaline rush. In fact, don’t expect anything for a long time as it’s barely more than a snazzy interface at the moment.

Not to be outdone, Jenn has been working on freecampsites.net quite a bit. I’ve tried to help some, but my PHP is very rusty and the codebase is quite large. I think she may have gotten a small taste of my frustration last night. Since she has expressed at least a passing interest in my game, I talked her through adding a couple of features to the codebase while we were driving to Quartzsite!

I was impressed. As a C neophyte, she was still able to extend my existing functions as well as find and patch a bug while listening to my disconnected ramblings of where the problem was most likely to be. All of that, and my program still compiles and runs this morning! I’m only sorry that I couldn’t talk her into finding a bug in the display code I spent a few hours trying to find yesterday. But, that code is probably overly complex and due for some cleanup. Hell, I get annoyed looking at it and I wrote it within the last week!

Thanks, But No Thanks

December 24th, 2009

Tonight, I worked my final night at amazon.com. They are unaware of that fact. It would appear that they had planned on hiring me on full time, but neglected to tell me.  Now they want two weeks notice if I am going to leave. They aren’t getting it. Apparently that means that I will not be welcome back. So be it. While its a nice compliment to be chosen out of the 1000s  that wanted to stay, I had always planned on leaving after the holiday. I never asked to stay. I was just myself. I feel like they are the ones that broke our deal, not me.

notice? You have to be kidding me!?

Image from www.toothpastefordinner.com

Integrity treats their people like crap and the only way I would work for them again is if I was COMPLETELY desperate or they were the only means to a job I really, really wanted. One example of their total disregard for people: Last night they let 100s of people come in and then laid them off before they even got 5 minutes on the clock. Most of those people had just driven 30-40miles to come in. It sucks being laid off when you want the job. It really sucks when you waste hours and dollars only to be told you no longer needed.

Integrity played so many unnecessary head games. They would write people up for things that were completely out of their control. Almost everyone who started the night I did got wrote up for not making their week four numbers (270) during week one. In orientation, they handed out a piece of paper that said what our expected UPH (Units Per Hour) was. In your first week, you were supposed to make 120 (I don’t have the sheet with me so that’s from memory). Each week it would ramp up. I think it was 180  in week 2 and 230 in week three. At the end of week 4, you are required to be at the same as the full time employees 270.

By the time my week 4 rolled around, there were too many people on the floor for anyone to get the UPH. Still, they kept writing people up for not getting their numbers. They didn’t write everyone up either. Just the majority. It was painful watching friends who really needed/wanted the job get picked on.

I wouldn't call it the best way, but it sure is different


But, I do hate to burn bridges. And, its my understanding that in addition to my attendance, attitude, and numbers, someone had to stand up and speak highly on my behalf in order for me to make the cut. I would really hate to make that person look bad. The individual people there are nice, and I got along with everyone. I will miss them.

But, I will not miss the Integrity head games. Amazon seems like a decent company to work for. After what I experienced tonight, they do take good care of their employees and most of them are happy with their jobs. It was a completely different environment tonight after the temps had cleared out. Everyone was joking around and having a good time. And, even though there wasn’t any work, they found ways to keep us busy and paid. It didn’t seem like such a bad place after all.

This will probably be my last post about Amazon.com.

We discovered a pipe in our camper that had busted due to ice tonight. It is still frozen. I guess I know what we are going to be doing tomorrow :).

We hope everyone is enjoying their holidays.

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